Government body can intervene in failing projects

The Major Projects Authority will be able to stop large-scale projects that are failing, the Cabinet Office has said

The government has launched a body with powers to intervene in failing major projects.

The Major Projects Authority (MPA), which has powers to scrutinise all Treasury-approved projects, was launched on Friday.

Major Projects Authority

Government projects have had "a poor delivery record", Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said. Photo credit: Cabinet Office

"Previously, government projects have had a poor delivery record," said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude. "There was no cross-governmental understanding of the size and cost of the government's major project portfolio, and projects often began with no agreed budget, no business case and unrealistic delivery timetables."

Maude said the MPA, which is part of the Efficiency and Reform Group, will look at projects such as the Rural Payments Agency's (RPA) IT system. The RPA system, which is run by companies including Accenture, has been severely criticised over the years, with the National Audit Office in 2009 criticising the £350m project for being "cumbersome", "complex", and "potentially obsolete".

Prime minister's mandate

The MPA, which is a collaboration between the Cabinet Office and the Treasury, has the prime minister's mandate to stop projects which are failing, a Cabinet Office spokeswoman told ZDNet UK on Monday.

Companies involved in major projects will have to work to an "integrated assurance" framework, and will be subject to "gateway reviews" by the MPA to assess performance. The reviews will scrutinise whether the projects are being delivered on time, within budget and to an appropriate level of quality, the Cabinet Office said in a statement.

The group will also have the power to approve or veto new major projects, the statement said. According to the Cabinet Office spokeswoman, a 'major project' is a scheme of work that requires Treasury approval to go ahead.

Between June and August 2010, the government's Efficiency and Reform Group undertook a major projects review, which looked at 204 projects to varying degrees of depth. The review recommended that a number of projects be terminated or re-scoped, but the list was not made public, the Cabinet Office said on Monday. Two projects were terminated, while three were re-scoped.

In addition, in June 2010 the National Audit Office published the Assurance for High Risk Projects report, which fed into the creation of the MPA.

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